Best state for physicians to practice medicine? You guessed it

May 17, 2018

This piece is presented by Sanford Health.

Some of the best states for doctors to practice medicine include Sanford Health’s core territory, according to a national organization that provides credit information to consumers.

“Sioux Falls is just like Long Island. It has as many, if not more, amenities with much less traffic and much nicer people,” said Dr. George Angelos, who moved his robotic colorectal surgical practice here from New York last fall.

“When you read or hear these surveys and people scoff at it, they say, ‘South Dakota is the best place to practice to medicine — ha!’ I say it’s easy to say that, but until you live it, you don’t know. The grass is never greener. I don’t think I ever realized the grass could ever be this green.”

WalletHub’s ranking said South Dakota, home to Sanford Health’s headquarters, tops the state list. Other organization locations that also rank high for physicians include Nebraska at No. 2, Iowa at No. 4, Minnesota at No. 5, Montana at No. 8 and North Dakota at No. 9.

“People are surprised to hear that South Dakota doesn’t have a state income tax,” said Mary Jo Burkman, senior director of physician recruitment for Sanford Health. “This can have an impact on their decision-making process when choosing where they want to practice. Other important factors include our low cost of living, strong school systems and South Dakota not being a litigious state.”

South Dakota has the second-highest average annual wage for physicians and, with North Dakota, some of the lowest malpractice award payouts, WalletHub found.

The listings were based on 16 key metrics, including average annual wage, hospitals per capita, insured population rate, projected share of elderly population, share of medical residents retained, quality of public hospital system, physicians assistants per capita, and malpractice award payout amounts and liability insurance rates.

Sanford Health, one of the largest health care systems in the nation, operates 44 hospitals and almost 300 clinics in nine states and four countries, with almost 1,400 physicians and openings for more providers from numerous backgrounds.

It recently announced a physician recruitment incentive program for anyone who refers a doctor who works in a rural site.

‘We are the center’

Angelos was attracted by both the clinical opportunity as a surgeon and also academically with the potential for a faculty appointment at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine at Sanford Health’s main campus in Sioux Falls.

He said Atlanta, where he previously practiced, was so competitive for his specialty that he had to spread his time among several locations over a large geographic area. On Long Island, most people wanted to seek care at one of the five prestigious teaching hospitals in Manhattan, so he had to fight for referrals.

At Sanford Health, his patients come from a large geographic area with few other specialists.

“Here, we are the center. It’s a wonderful place to be. We are the Harvard here. And I don’t see that we lack anything that you’d expect at an Ivy League institution,” Angelos said. “We have residents here, extenders here, all the specialties here. We have all the accouterments that make for the best outcomes. This place is remarkable.”

Family time

Angelos said besides being able to focus more on patient care, his personal life also has improved. He and his wife have four children younger than 8, with another on the way.

New York City offers a lot of things to do, but he couldn’t enjoy them because he was spread so thin.

“I was never present for my family in the way that I am now,” he said. “I get to see my children and see them as they grow and go to dinner with them.”

Destination wedding in South Dakota

Dr. Emily Haggerty, who practices internal medicine in a hospital setting, also left New York for Sioux Falls two years ago after finishing her residency in Syracuse and clinical training in New York City and New Jersey.

She visited South Dakota while looking at residencies and left that first visit with a good impression, so she put it on her list when she started applying for jobs — landing at Sanford Health.

Haggerty grew up near Montreal and her husband, a real estate agent, is from the Washington, D.C., area.

“It really is comfortable. It has everything we need. We’re giving up some luxuries of an urban lifestyle but gained so much more. We work in jobs that are rewarding and with great people, and it’s a great community. We can still travel a lot to see our families,” she said.

The couple initially talked about doing a destination wedding but opted to hold the ceremony in Sioux Falls.

“We said we can just do it here and it’s easy to plan, and then everyone can just come here,” Haggerty said.

Benefit to patients

Haggerty appreciates the Midwesterners she serves.

“The people we work with here are wonderful patients, and that plays a big role in why people are happy here,” she said. “It’s really wonderful when you walk into your patient’s room and their family is at the bedside. That’s not something you see everywhere. It makes you go the extra mile for the people you’re working with.”

Burkman said that leads to an improved patient experience, which is especially critical as the national payors are shifting more toward reimbursement based on quality metrics and patient outcomes rather than how many patients are being seen.

“The physicians play a key role in meeting those quality metrics. Sanford Health’s goal is to provide a strong work-life balance for its doctors, which will decrease physician burnout and increase patient satisfaction,” she said. “That all resonates with better health care.”

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Best state for physicians to practice medicine? You guessed it

Here’s why South Dakota is ranked the best state for physicians to practice in, and why some Sanford physicians from New York decided it was the place for them.

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